Monday, May 18, 2015


From Chesterton's Orthodoxy:

When I had looked at the lights of Broadway by night, I made to my American friends an innocent remark that seemed for some reason to amuse them. I had looked, not without joy, at that long kaleidoscope of colored lights arranged in large letters in sprawling trademarks, advertising everything, from pork to pianos, through the agency of the two most vivid and most mystical of the gifts of God; color and fire. I said to them, in my simplicity, "What a glorious garden of wonders this would be, to anyone who was lucky enough to be unable to read."

Here it is but a text for a further suggestion. But let us suppose that there does walk down this flaming avenue a peasant, of the sort called scornfully an illiterate peasant... He would please himself by guessing what great proclamation or principle of the Republic hung in the sky like a constellation or rippled across the street like a comment. He would be shrewd enough to guess that the three festoons fringed with fiery words of somewhat similar patterns for "Government of the People, For the People, By the People"; for it must obviously be that, unless it were "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity." His shrewdness would perhaps be a little shaken if he knew that the triad stood for "Tang Tonic Today; Tang Tonic Tomorrow; Tang Tonic All the Time." He will soon identify a restless ribbon of red lettering, red-hot and rebellious, as the saying, "Give me liberty or give me death." He will fail to identify it as the equally famous saying, "Skyoline has Gout Beaten to a Frazzle." Therefore it was that I desired the peasant to walk down that grove of fiery trees, under all that golden foliage and fruits like monstrous jewels, as innocent as Adam before the fall. He would see sights almost as fine as the flaming sword or the purple and peacock plumage of the seraphim; so long as he did not go near the Tree of Knowledge.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Grasping for the Truth

From Joseph Pieper, in his book Silence of Saint Thomas:
Man, in his history, whether it be individual or collective, does not advance through a continuous process of development like a plant, from the state of inferior to one of greater and more comprehensive understanding. Rather, the actual historical development of the human intellect appears as a progress in the form of assertion and counter-assertion. The assertion does not seize upon the totality of truth in one gradual, uninterrupted process, but, expressing one aspect of truth, necessarily conceals another. The second aspect is brought out in the counter-assertion, which interrupts the assertion until in its turn it is interrupted. And as one aspect of the varied and many sided truth becomes more evident, another aspect in turn recedes from view. And when this other aspect forces its way back from oblivion into consciousness, the earlier aspect tends to fade from the mind... The fact that every positive chance involves at the same time a danger shows the clearest possible manner that the human mind can enjoy no tota et simul possessio. Indeed no positive chance can be taken without accepting the risk inherent in it.
Truth is like a three-dimensional object, like a globe, which we apprehend from out in space. We can only see so much of it at one time. Any aspect of the truth which we embrace has the potential to obscure other aspects of truth from our minds, yet this is the path we must tread...
...everything is obviously timely and relevant which encourages and confirms an epoch in its special values, attitudes and problems, which positively and immediately corresponds with the line of its major effort. But here we should not forget that such an emphasis on the primarily discussed concerns of an epoch must intensify the blind spots of the epoch. This is just a further notion of "timeliness": timely is not only what an epoch wants, but also what an epoch needs; a corrective attitude to the present is timely, the refusal to accept it is timely, or, rather, the refusal of the dangers necessarily inherent in the chances.
Every age in human history has its particular truths which it clings to, and from time to time must be shaken out of its dogmatic slumber.
... the human mind, in spite of its strict historical boundaries, is not the prisoner of a specific period; rather, that it is truly spirit, capax universi, oriented toward the whole of truth, and therefore capable of detached consideration even of its own time-conditioned existence.
From the start, then, the notion of timeliness contains a note of optimism, of confidence. It is the confidence that each "contemporary" emphasis upon some special feature of truth need not imply a denial of the totality of truth (as every shade of rationalism tends arrogantly to assume); that, on the contrary, this emphasis might bring with it the chance for a new perception of truth. This chance, as we have seen, is by its nature linked with its inherent danger...